Kathryn Shay is one gutsy author! Trust in Me, her second mass
market paperback, both rejects the formulaic character of so many
current romance novels and takes on two controversial subjects
rarely found within their pages: spousal abuse and religion. Her daring
results in an unusual and compelling tale of guilt and forgiveness.
Shay rejects the current formula by writing an ensemble story. The book
does not focus on one relationship with a secondary romance thrown in.
Rather, she looks at three relationships, each equally central to the plot.
We meet five of the six main characters in the Prologue. The year is
1983 and the place is Glen Oaks, a small New York town whose only claim
to fame is a stock car racing track. Linc Grayson heads a band of
troubled kids who call themselves “the Outlaws.” Its members consist of
his girlfriend Margo; his sister Beth; his friends Danny Donovan and Joe
Murphy; and Joe’s girlfriend Annie. Linc and Beth are orphans, being
raised by their uncaring grandparents. Margo is the daughter of a
fanatic who belongs to a local religious cult. Joe lives with his
abusive father and abused mother. Annie, at fourteen the youngest, is
neglected by her parents. Danny is the son of privilege whose parents
have no time for his friends or his own dreams.
The gang is all too well known to the police of Glen Oaks but things
come to a head when they try and botch a robbery. That night changes
Fast forward twenty years. Three of the six still live in Glen Oaks.
Beth married Danny and had a son, only to lose her husband in a stock
car crash ten years earlier. Ron is sixteen and seems to be headed for
the same kind of trouble his parents got into. Annie had married Joe,
but history repeated itself. Six years earlier, Joe had left town after
beating his wife one time too many.
The person who suggested that Joe leave was Linc. Surprisingly, Linc
has become a minister who has devoted himself to providing the help that
he and his friends needed but didn’t get all those years ago. However,
his calling has cost him the love of his life. Margo, whose fanatical
mother had abused her in the name of God and religion, cannot believe in
either. She has left Glen Oaks and is now a successful business
executive in New York. But she still sees the “Outlaws” as her best friends.
The catalyst for change in the lives of the protagonists is the arrival
in Glen Oaks of Tucker Quaid, three-time Winston Cup champion, now
retired. Tucker drove the car that caused the accident that killed
Danny. He was cleared of responsibility by an investigative board, but
Ron blames him for his father’s death. And, to tell the truth, Tucker
blames himself. Tucker has come to town to try to revive the race track.
Ron’s anger comes to a head and he vandalizes Tucker’s car. This act,
on top of his past misbehavior, brings him before the town’s Community
Youth Council. Linc sits on the council as does Annie. The group waits
for the arrival of the new Director of Social Services to begin the
hearing. And Joe Murphy walks back into their lives.
It is impossible in a short review to provide a sense of the complexity
of the characters or the story of Trust in Me. All of the
characters are fully developed and complex human beings. The two
controversial subjects are personified by Linc and Joe. Spousal abuse
is not a popular topic with many romance readers. They know too well
how rare there can be a happy ending in a relationship where one party
abuses the other. They know how difficult it is for an abuser to
reform. I recall very well the negative response to Mary Jo Putney’s
treatment of the problem a couple of years ago.
Shay does not shy away from this controversial subject. Joe was an
abuser, pure and simple, and while we know why, we are not expected to
forgive him readily. Shay makes it quite clear how hard he has worked
to tame the “Mr. Hyde” within him. She also shows us how abuse
continues to affect the life of the one who suffered it. Annie does not
easily forgive or forget.
Linc’s character introduces the religious element into the story. While
heroes who talk with God and try to do His will are common in
inspirational romances, they are rare in other parts of the genre. I
have not read many inspirational romances but those I have do not always
offer what I believe to be an accurate picture of the struggle that
doing God’s work can be. Shay’s portrayal of Linc seems to me to be a
good representation of a devout and devoted man of God. And it is inspiring.
I hope Trust in Me finds the readership it deserves. I hope that
Shay is rewarded for daring to do something different. I don’t know
when I have become more involved in a novel’s characters and story. I
believe I will be revisiting this book again when I need to be reminded
that forgiveness is central to true contentment.